Peggy and the Dalzell Family after the verdict
Phenotype and mugshot of POS Luke Fleming
Where: Sarasota, Florida, 52k pop in 1999. Right on the water, Lido Beach is a huge tourist attraction, with beautiful views and fine sand for your toesies. Notable events in pop culture, this is Pee-Wee Herman Pee-weed himself back in 1991. He was actually one of four men arrested for pee-weeing themselves that day, but of course, the media only cared about his arrest. Notable people from here - WWF Wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Celebrities living there nowadays - Brian Johnson, lead singer of AC/DC, and Jerry Springer. You know, the guy who’s guests would come out lunging at their would-be cheater lover… I was shocked to read this - that show lasted 28 yrs! No shortage of entertainment in that show. And there’s also Dick Vitale - a commentator for men's college basketball on ESPN. Not bad Sarasota!
Who: Deborah Dalzell, Born September 21 1951 in Boston to Warren and Marilyn Dalzell. She was the middle of five kids, she’s got two older brothers, Timothy and Gerald, and two younger sisters, Mary-Ellen and Margaret. They all grew up in Massachusetts and they were a big baseball family. Deborah in particular was a die-hard fan of the Sox.
After graduating high school, Deborah went off to college at Bryant & Stratton, which I think was in Buffalo. She’s going to meet Robert Pullen there, a fellow student, and they get married in August of 1973, when Deborah is almost 22. He’s from NY, but they decide to settle down by her family near Boston. I can’t tell when they divorce, but they didn’t have any kids, and by the time she is middle-aged, Deborah is single again and has gone back to using her maiden name.
So what was Deborah like after she grew up? Well, she was not afraid of hard work, that’s for sure. In fact, Deborah had passed the Massachusetts bar exam on her first try in her younger years, back in the 70s. When we think about it, that was a time when us women really weren’t expected to be working in the legal field. And let’s face it, we weren’t accepted very well either. Now we really don’t know anything about her work as a lawyer, but based on her work ethic, I’m sure she was something fierce.
Later on, Deborah also got herself an accounting degree to go with being admitted to the bar. So now she’s a double threat in the professional world.
Personality-wise Deborah was level-headed. And she was not the kind of person that would attract drama to herself, or put herself in dangerous situations. She didn’t really take a lot of chances or get into any risky behavior, according to her sister Margaret - who goes by Peggy. So she wasn’t like this big, huge personality, but she was devoted and loyal to family and the people she loved. By the time she was in her forties, Deborah was no longer married, and she never had any kids, so instead, she would dote on her nine nieces and nephews. Peggy tells us, “She exemplified grace and kindness. She was an incredible role model to her nieces and nephews, whose lives she moved and touched so much that I can see pieces of her and all of them. She would be overflowing with pride for the men and women they have become today.”
Deborah was a dedicated employee, too. She was very responsible and dependable, and often worked overtime if the job needed it. She was steady: she liked work, spending time with family, and baseball… just the basics. So what we see here is kind of like what we learned about Carolyn Cox in Pensacola a month or so ago. An independent woman that, instead of pursuing a life as a housewife, making baked treats and signing themselves up for committees at the kids' schools, she finds much of her fulfillment in her professional life.
So the years are passing and we find Deborah in the late 90s. And she looks around and sees that most of the family has moved away. Dad has passed, and it’s just Tim and Deb remaining by mom in Massachusetts. Other brother Gerald is in TX, Mary-Ellen is in NH (which isn’t too far away actually), and Peggy is living down in Florida. Deborah’s been in MA her whole life, so she thinks, “well, Florida might be nice.” This is going to be in the spring and summer of 1998. So she goes down to visit, puts some professional feelers out, and gets a job offer at a telecommunications company, KMC Telecom. “Alright, maybe I will move. But let’s see about a house, cause I’m gonna need a place to live, Peggy.”
It just so happens that there is this new housing development being built down there in Sarasota, about 10miles from work. Now they’ve only got a few houses done so far, but these homes that are done are up for sale, so Deborah takes a look. One of these houses - it's like hitting the jackpot. It’s open, it’s airy, it's a one story, and like we said, it’s in this brand new neighborhood. Where the streets are clean, the landscaping is fresh and new, and there’s even a community ball park nearby. This house she’s looking at has this big pool room, like right off the kitchen. I mean like, a swimming pool, not a billiard table. The ceiling is all glass, and there's a lot of windows to let the sunlight in. It’s not just the pool in this room though, there’s enough room around the pool, so it’s like a full indoor patio too. And it’s attached to the house, so you’ll have privacy day and night and you don’t even have to step outside to go for a swim. I mean, this sounds amazing. My husband would kill to have that here on Long Island, but umm, yeah no, lol. Not affordable here by any stretch of the word. And besides, soon enough he’d be hooking up the XBox and a projection screen out there… and … ok, even if we could afford it, I'd have to nix that, lol. In any case, with this pool room being right off the kitchen, you can enjoy day and night! Eat your breakfast out there, just sit and relax after work, or take a dip whenever you feel like it. It's a gorgeous perk in this brand new housing development… that no one has even lived in yet. Deborah’s thinking, “Jeez, I can have my sister and her family over, maybe some new friends I meet down here, have a nice place for entertaining...” Plus they’re still building up other homes, so she could even serve as, like, the welcome wagon for other new families that move in. There’s also a church right there and like I said, a new sports field within walking distance, right behind this house that Deborah is looking at, so this is great too. She can just pop over there whenever she wants to watch baseball or some other game going on.
And to top it all off, moving down here is going to get her easy access to the Sox for spring training in Ft Myers, which is just a little over an hour away. AND she’s 6mi from the beach.
Long story short, Deborah is smitten. She’s like, “This is perfect, where do I sign? Peg, I’m moving in!” She got the keys to the house on Colony Meadows Lane in July of 1998, leaving Mansfield, MA behind.
So you know how when you move, you might pack everything up in a week, but at the new place, it takes months to actually move in? I can tell you, I moved into my house in 2013, and I still have boxes that I haven’t unpacked. It’s like, meh. I’ll get to it. Or honestly, ahh I’ll just buy a new one for the new house. And so it’s the same thing for our girl Deborah. Because as soon as she gets down there, she starts this new job, and it's pretty demanding. Plus she’s reunited with her sister now too, so they’ve got a lot of catching up to do. She’s got a whole house she needs to move into, and she is going it alone, as far as being the only person living there. So, it’s a lot - and it’s not all going to happen at once. But given enough time, Deborah’s going to grow into this new house, and make it her own. Come spring of 1999, her at home to-do list has thinned out pretty significantly, and work is going great. She’s still working crazy overtime, but everyone there loves her, and the job turns out to be a really great fit. She even hosts a St Patty’s Day party that March, and lots of people from work show up.
But as it happens, this is the end of our happy times. Because come the night of March 28, 1999, Deborah will be taken from us, and her friends and family’s lives will be forever changed for the worse. On this day, it’s a long day for Deborah. Even though it’s a Sunday night and she should be refreshed and getting ready to start a new week, she’s exhausted. So tired, in fact, that she turns down dinner at Peggy’s house. But as we know how Deborah is, she’s not ducking her sister because she’s selfish. She’s actually declining the invite because she wants to finish prepping Peggy and her husband’s taxes for them. Woow, that’s love right there. This is legit a Sunday night, guys. Sunday at 10pm? I’m not doing your taxes, lol. I’m on my second glass of wine and I’m getting ready to call it a night. Ok fine, my third, lol. I mean, we’ve got two more weeks till tax day, lol. But God Bless her, it’s like 10-10:30, and she’s calling up Peggy, to get her up to speed. Just a few other things to go over with her to finish them up, and she can finish before bed. She says, “Alright, I’m going to put them in the mailbox and you can get them in the morning.” And they hang up.
It’s a beautiful night. We’ve had a long day, taxes are finally done and it’s time to go to bed. Now, Deborah is known to watch tv before going to sleep and so, when she does go to the bed, she’s got all the lights in the house off, but the TV in her bedroom is glowing. And living down in Florida now, she’s taken to keeping some windows open in the house when it’s extra hot. She’s got a pool window open, as well as her bedroom window, because that's going to give the room a nice breeze. Plus you got your nice nature sounds outside… Beautiful summer night, letting the TV put you to sleep, nice breeze coming in… the dream right?
But now we TC nerds, are like, this is ..hmmm what's about to go down? Hold on. Because we have something else to consider here too. Even though she’s been in the house about 7-8 months now, she's still not fully settled in - she’s been busy! New job, Sox spring training, spending time with her sister. So, among other things, her bedroom doesn't actually have any curtains on the window yet. And because the whole area in this new neighborhood is all still under construction and in the process of being built up, the landscape is pretty empty too. There’s trees, but the land’s been leveled, and so these trees are all new trees, they're lil baby trees. So this area is all fresh and new and exciting for anyone moving in, but in the meantime while we wait for the rest of the neighborhood to come in, right now there's only 3 houses being lived in, and there’s this empty public property right behind Deborah, and now its night time, and she lives alone, without curtains into her bedroom, and the TV is on. From the vantage point of the field, anyone standing there at night in the dark, with the fields not lit up, any stalker types get a nice look into her house, seeing she’s alone, and likely sleeping.
Sometime in the night, with Deborah sound asleep, but the TV still on, a man comes up to the house… right up to the pool room. Now, there’s no outside door to the pool, it’s all walls and windows. And at least one of them is open, remember. And with the view from the field, he’s already figured out what he’s going to do. All he has to do is climb up on the pool pump, cut the screen, pull himself up, and drop inside. It’s believed he chooses this entry point since it’s not right next to Deborah, so he’s got a little wiggle room in case he makes any noise…. she won’t hear him.
Once he’s in, he creeps to her bedroom. And we don’t know if she woke up before he attacked because this POS ain’t talking, but it was a terrifying and violent exchange. He’s holding her down, she’s trying to kick him off, he’s hitting her in the head, she’s pushing back… she is fighting with all she's got. And the room is getting completely ransacked, that's how hard she’s fighting back. But in the end, Deborah loses not only the fight, but her life as well. This monster rapes her, gags her with a sock, and strangles her with a t-shirt. A fucking t-shirt guys. Ugh. And then he panics or something - idk if he’s purposefully staging or planning ahead or what - but he drags her, naked, into the bathroom, right next to her bedroom, and he props her over the tub, head-in first, and runs the tub. So even though she’s already gone, he’s looking to drown her for good measure? Because he’s not putting her whole body in there, only her head and upper body...He takes off, with the water still running. It runs all through the rest of the night, and into the next morning. And our Deborah, is just laying there, drooped over like a rag doll, head under the water. Savagely broken, beaten, and strangled to death.
The next morning, Peggy swings by the house, checks the mailbox for the taxes, and finds the mailbox empty. Huh, weird. And she's not answering the front door, even though her car is in the driveway. Peggy thinks maybe she got a ride to work? So after leaving Deborah’s house, Peggy is going to call the house phone AND the work phone multiple times throughout the morning.
On the other side of town, Deborah doesn’t show up for work with everyone else and this is not normal. Right off the bat, they’re like, “waaait a second, something’s not right here. Deb doesn’t no call no show. She doesn’t even CALL and no show.” And it’s by 10am that her coworkers finally decide to check into it. So Joel Steimer, one of her teammates, he decides he’s going to go by her house to see what’s up. He shows up around 10:30, and of course, we know… Deborah doesn't come to the door. So he walks around the property, just to check it out and get a feel for the place, and sees the screen cut in the window of the pool room. Well, this can’t be good. Joel steps up on the pool pump right and takes a peek inside. Now he doesn’t see Deborah, but he sees the french doors to the pool room are open, and he can see farther into the house, to where her bedroom was, and sees the top mattress on her bed is cockeyed, Sheets pulled off weird, and her bedside lamp is laying on the floor. At that point, he’s done. Joel gets down, calls work, and then calls police.
Deborah was found naked, sprawled over a master bathtub of running water that spilled onto the carpet. Her head was submerged in the water. Brutally beaten - her jaw had been dislocated. But the thing is - by the autopsy - the injuries to her head and face were done by hands, not a weapon.
They did find blood that was not Deborah’s at the scene, plus the semen left behind after her rape, so that’s going to be our DNA evidence. In particular, semen was found on her thigh, so not just evidence of a rape, but evidence of being left like that after the semen was deposited. Meaning it wasn’t smeared washed away or anything.
Police take Peggy through the house, she can’t find anything missing. So they cross burglary off the list as a motive. And with Deborah being raped, we are figuring that's pretty much the whole motive.
First of course, with Joel propping himself up on the wall where the killer got in, they need to get his DNA to see if he was als in the house. If he’s the only one found on that wall and window AND he’s in the house, then case closed, right? Joel’s our guy. He gives his sample and they test it against the DNA on and around Deborah, and he’s not a match. So they have to start looking elsewhere. They check out all the other people at her St Patrick's Day party a few weeks back, and everyone checks out. They’re also checking out the construction crews working on the houses in this new neighborhood - nothing comes of that either.
Her family, local radio stations, and the local crimestoppers unit will set up a reward fund with the United Way to find the killer. Also there’s also going to be a memorial fund for the city’s local rape crisis center, called Safe Place.
Over the years, there’s going to be over 100 DNA samples of possible suspects compared to the evidence, but nothing is ever going to match.
In 2006, TC TV is in full swing and we have psychics solving crimes on TV! The first season of “Sensing Murder” showcases Deborah’s case, in episode 11. I was able to watch it on Youtube, and I will put the link in the show notes. It’s ummm, interesting. They bring in two separate psychics who work with two separate Detectives. We’ve got Vince Mayer and Kevin Pringel. They been working this case since the beginning and they’re hoping for a new lead. The psychics don’t know anything about the victims or the circumstances of the crime. They just get an item from the victim to get their feelings off of, and they go from there. In this episode it’s going to be Deborah's keys. They come up with information about the victim, and, lo and behold, both ladies are right. We have a lady in her 40-50s, short brown hair, independent, coming into her own in life. Then the psychics are asked about the crime and the way the victim died. They both tell us they feel attacked out of the blue, hit hard on the head or back of the neck, they’re being suffocated - oooh again! Very good! So finally the police are like, “ok, what about the guy? Where did he come from? What are his details? And this is what we end up with, according to psychics Pam and Laurie: 1. He’s between mid 30s - early 50s, with scraggly, brown greying hair, and a beard 2. He’s transient, maybe travels for work? And he works with his hands, 3. He’s definitely done this before. He’s committed other kills or crimes, even if he hasn’t been caught yet.
So the episode ends with Detectives Pringel and Mayer being like, we should go back and look into the guys that worked on building those houses in that neighborhood when she was killed. Also, we’re going to check out the list of carnies at the fair that week seven years ago. And of course, the closing credits give us the requestite, “if you know anything, please contact Sarasota County Sheriff's department at…” So we’ll see if the ladies’ predictions pan out, but these shows, even if the ladies might be wrong in the end, the courage keeps the case in the headlines, and that’s what we want. They show us that the police are not giving up, the pressure is still on, and the investigation is still active. So this makes us happy.
Then we have to jump all the way to 2012. Sarasota Sheriff’s department starts up a task force, a cold case unit, and Deborah is at the top of their list. They bring in some new detectives, try some new perspectives, but still get nothing. By 2015-2016, Pringel and Mayer are at their wits ends. But Technology has evolved quite a bit now, so they call up Parabon, “can we get you to do the phenotyping on this DNA sample we have from 1999?” And Parabon says, “you got it.” And the phenotype, just like all the others we’ve seen here on the podcast… looks very much like the guy.
2018 - Sarasota called Parabon again to do the family map. Filled out the tree, and found his dad, Joseph, who died in 2001. Joseph had 2 sons, Luke, and Jesse. Both lived in Sarasota, just .7mi from Deborah’s house. Jesse was convicted and in jail, and not a complete match in CODIS, he’s not Deborah’s killer. So they tracked the other guy. And on September 19, 2018, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department announced the arrest of Luke Edward Fleming for the 1999 rape and murder of Deborah Dalzell.
Who is Luke Fleming?? Who is this piece of shit?
He was 20yo at the time. And it turns out this POS lived on Magnolia Pond Drive, which is less than a mile from Deborah’s house on Colony Meadows Lane. When he was younger, the family had moved from Brooklyn in 1991 to Florida. In 1997 he graduated from Riverview High School, right there in Sarasota. He had no criminal history aside from a domestic battery arrest in 2002. Apparently whatever happened wasn’t enough that he was going to get his cheek swabbed though, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about him here on the The Ties that Find.
Living in Manatee County at the time of arrest. He was working as a wholesale seafood distributor, Bama Sea Products, and living in St Petersburg. He had recently had a son, who was only 2 when Fleming was picked up. That poor kid.
OK so at the last minute I thought I was done with the research and I found an article about an interview given by Luke’s extra friend before he was arrested. This is Brittany. She was 10 years younger than Luke and had been with him for the last five years and had broken up with him before police caught on to him. She said the romance was wonderful but when he was mad it was super nasty in his eyes and it said it did scare her. They did leave Florida and live in Tennessee for a time, but then returned to Florida in 2016. By then she made up her mind to break up with him and seeing how his temper was bad she knew that she needed to break away nice and clean. When she left him he followed in his car and he ran her off the road. She tried to get a restraining order against this asshole, but unfortunately it never came of it.
So this is a domestic violence rest of us had at the time but like I said nothing came of it so… In any case, summer of 2018 police are asking if they could swab their son's cheek to see if it matched his father’s bloodline. They did lie to her, and tell her they thought maybe it was his father but they were looking for. And get this she was actually there when he was arrested. Luke had just dropped the baby off with her in the bank parking lot after visitation. She and the baby were in the car when cops pulled up to Fleming’s leaving the parking lot and that’s when the rest happened. Crazy! Can you believe that his own son was the one that solidified the arrest warrant?
For Peggy’s part, she does tell us that the families did not know each other.
Peggy about the arrest:
“We are spread all over the country now. We have all waited over 19 years for this news. 19 years of graduations, weddings, new babies, and family milestones that Deborah has missed. We never gave up hope. As a family we have dreamed of the day we would get the news if they had caught her killer. We now have a face and name for this monster. Together, as a family, we will see this through to the end to make sure that Justice will be served. I asked my mother if there was anything she would like to say and she said, ‘for 20 years he has been able to see the sun, and smell the flowers. May today be the last day.’” And this announcement comes just two days before what would have been Deborah’s 67th birthday.
So what do we have here, what are we going to do with POD Fleming? This guy is going to see it through, he’s going to take his chances with a trial. It’ll be in February 2020, last year, right before COVID shut everything down. It’ll last three days. And the only witness the defense brings up is POS Fleming himself. And his story? We had a one night stand… IDK what happened after that. Wasn’t me.
He testifies that they might have met at Applebee;s or the “Swamp Bar” - yes that's the name of the bar - that night. He said he went there back in the day because they would serve him even though he was underage. Remember, he was 20 at the time. He said they were chatting in the bar, eventually both went outside to smoke, and then went to his car to hook up. This all happened sometime between 8-10pm.
For this story to make sense to us, we have to believe she was out at the bar before she spoke with Peggy on the phone. We know Deborah spoke with her sister on the phone that night after 10pm. And seeing as how she was home, according to her sister, she would have been on her landline, and I'm sure they saved the phone records. Also, if Deborah had been out, she would have been having dinner at her sister’s house. Or we’re supposed to believe Deborah ducked out on her sister, and went to dinner or the bar by herself? And then didn’t tell Peggy she had been out when they talked on the phone around 10:30? Fuck out of here.
There's also the DNA evidence that contradicts what he's saying. Because semen was on her because they had sex in his car. yet it would stand to reason that as soon as the deed was done she would be exiting the car with her pants on. So therefore any kind of semen that was left on her leg would have been smeared. That is not the case, that is not how she was found. They specifically said there was a deposit that was left on her leg and it was dried. It wasn't smeared; it wasn't smudged. So again, get the fuck out of here.
Jury take 2.5 hr - get the fuck out of here, you’re guilty. He is convicted of Murder and Sexual Assault with a deadly weapon, and sentenced to two life sentences.
So how did Pam and Laurie do?
- 30-50s, scraggly, brown greying hair with a beard? Nope, he was 20yo at the time.
- Transient, travels for work? Worked with his hands? Nope, lived less than a mile away.
- Has prior kills or crimes? Nope, unless you count the domestic violence arrest. Seems nothing came of it at the time though, because otherwise they would have taken his DNA and submitted it to CODIS.
But what about CODIS? My first thought was “wait, if his brother was there, couldn’t they have found him that way?” Gooood question, Rachel. So I looked it up, and what do you know, I came across an article from Lindsey Wade, the detective that pushed to solve Michella Welch’s case just a few episodes back. She and David Mittleman, the founder of Ortham (a company that does the work like Parabon), they tell us, “A full DNA profile for CODIS contains 20 core markers—or 20 points on the human genome. When the profile is entered into CODIS, a match could be made to an offender in the database or it could link multiple cases together. In some states, CODIS can be used to attempt to identify immediate family relationships, such as parent-offspring, with a technique called familial DNA testing. However, to detect the sorts of distant genetic relationships used in genealogy, as many as hundreds of thousands of markers are needed. Measuring these markers requires new methods typically unavailable at laboratories that offer conventional CODIS testing.
So let’s think it through. According to Lindsey and David, Florida may have been able to get a hit on him if they did the familial DNA search… but since it never came up, we have to know that that search wasn’t done. So I’m thinking, why not? I’m thinking it must have to do with the laws of the particular state you are working in. So if Florida doesn’t allow for familial searches, you’re not getting those hits. They also mention the hits could be sibling or parent/child… so these hits we are talking about are an unknown suspect whose sibling/parent/child has been caught doing their own crime, and getting their DNA swabbed. So it is a smaller population of people that will show up in these search pools. Also, the parts of the DNA that point to family relationships are not actually centimorgans, like we have in the forensic genealogy… omg I'm getting so sciency, how did i come to arrive here? …. So actually some of these hits could be people that are like dopplegangers of the suspect, but not actually blood related. We’re all looking at you, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain, lol.
Now I don't really know any of the specifics about this from state to state, but let’s think about this for a second….If we were to be able to get “kind of” type matches, like, close family matches, to come back in CODIS, do we want that? Will the public stand for that? Can that be legal? Let’s say we have a recent crime, a murder. We get DNA from the crime scene, we get a profile - awesome. Now let’s put it into the database, see if something comes back. If we can’t get the guy - or gal - can we get an immediate family member? Report comes back, awesome! We got a hit on the…. The Blackwood family. Seems our killer is closely related to James Blackwood. Let’s look into his family! And then police start picking off family members one by one, they’re surveilling Dad, get his DNA…. not a match. Move on to brother Charles… get his DNA, not a match…. Yada yada yada... until they get to James’s final brother, Anthony. And Anthony’s a hit. Sweet, right? We’ve got Anthony, we toss him in the slammer and all is good. Only thing is, at least the way I’m looking at it, is that the problem that some people claim that forensic genealogy poses - the privacy problem - is the same problem here, but with far more government involvement. With CODIS being a government database, allowing law enforcement nationwide to ask CODIS to spit back familial matches (who remember, might not actually be true family, see jessica Chastain), before long, we could be all these innocent bystanders people - parents, siblings - even if they don’t commit crimes and leave DNA behind themselves… they’re not going to be too happy about this. So,for the sake of morality and privacy and keeping Big Brother at bay, let’s keep the familial searching to the genealogists and fine tuned profiling we get from Parabon and Orthram and the like, ok?
Closing Tribute: Peggy after the verdict:
Find me after 20 years we have a guilty verdict in this horrific crime against our beautiful Deborah who we all loved so very much we are grateful for the jury service in evaluating the evidence and rendering a conviction for Deborah's murder in March 1999 we want to thank the assistant state attorney Karen Fraivillig and Art Jackman for the Relentless pursuit of Justice on behalf of Deborah and our family to consider home to has been a constant source of support to our family for May for the past 20 years the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office never gave up on finding Deborah's killer employees finally led to an arrest for this you have our Eternal appreciation”